Star Princess Cruise Review by Bermuda Longtail: Christmas Cruise Around the Horn
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Christmas Cruise Around the Horn
We are in our early 50's and have now completed 10 cruises:
QEII Celebrity Summit, Millennium, Infinity, Constellation and Century RCL Explorer and Adventurer of the Seas Golden and Star Princess
I am an American and my husband is Bermudian and we cruise for the enjoyment and we visit ports to get a tiny sample of what the location has to offer. If we like it, we will come back to spend more time at a later date.
While on board we heard numerous travel woes from missed connections to lost luggage from our many new friends and to our good fortune, we 'cruised through the stormy seas' without a problem.
We traveled on Delta from our home in Bermuda on Friday, December 18, to Atlanta and onto Rio de Janeiro as planned although our flight was an hour late leaving due to bad weather in Atlanta, we had plenty of time to make our connection. The Captain and crew of the Delta flight to Rio were exceptional and it made the long flight good. Rio airport More was nice, no immigration issues as I had my visa in place thanks to our TA who arranged getting it through a service. All bags arrived, loaded into a taxi, nice, clean, friendly and spacious...
We booked 3 nights at the JW Marriott Hotel Rio de Janeiro and it is in an excellent hotel and location.
When we arrived at the Marriott on Saturday morning around 11 AM and we were greeted with the old story 'sorry your room will not be available until 3 PM but for $60 you can upgrade and that room is available now'. We had read about this from others and we were ready to upgrade and that was an excellent move, highly recommended. We had a room overlooking the Copacabana Beach on the 5th floor. After we got settled, we checked our email and heard from friends that that most of the east cost and Bermuda were shut down because of bad weather. Flights were not travelling to or from the island due to stormy conditions so people scheduled to travel on Saturday were not getting seats out until Christmas day due to full flights. Again, we were lucky! Rio was absolutely beautiful, sunny and warm every day plus we also noticed how clean it was. We spent the afternoon at the pool on the roof and saw David Goldman who got his son, Sean, back from Brazil on Christmas Day.
We took two tours while in Rio that we pre-arraigned online through Viator.com. We followed the instructions on our tickets, confirmed our tour and we were given times to be in front of our hotel. Just like clockwork, a Gray Line coach appeared and picked us up both times, no issues. The first tour was on Sunday to Sugarloaf Mountain and we got a surprise stop at the Cathedral of Rio de Janeiro enroute. On Monday morning we went to Corcovado Hill, to see the statue of "Christ the Redeemer" with hardly a cloud in the sky, even our guide was so excited for us.
While in Rio, we walked the entire length of Copacabana and Ipanema beaches plus many back streets and alleys and we felt very safe. We took the advice and precautions that were all over the internet about how to look like a local, no jewels and being alert, we were fine. On Tuesday we got up early to watch the Star come over the horizon from our room but she was nowhere in sight. We checked the onboard camera and she was still at sea. We checked Cruise Critic and low and behold there was a posting from someone onboard saying the Star was running late and would not get to Rio until 11:00 a.m.
No problem, Marriott let us have a late checkout so we went for a long walk on the beach before checking out and taking a taxi to the pier.
We did experience a wait of a couple of hours in the terminal but we took a seat and people watched. It appeared well organized and when we got to our check in agent, it was quick and professional. The agent did keep our passports but that was okay with us, as it would mean no visits to the immigration line in each country.
Our cabin was clean and spacious and our cabin steward, Edwin, welcomed us, quickly learned our routines and provided an excellent service, one of the best. We did a quick run around the ship and our bags were in our cabin when we returned. My husband setup his laptop in the room and got his wireless internet connected so we could keep family and friends updated.
The lifeboat drill was well organized and probably the best we have done for our years of cruising.
We had late sitting for dinner that was in the Amalfi Dining Room and were placed at a table of six next to a large window on the port side. The food was excellent and choices were good plus we were so surprised at how hot meals were served. We purchased wine and would normally have one bottle over two nights. The price for a nice bottle of Chilean or Argentinean wine was $24-$25 comparable to what I would have paid locally.
We departed late due to the late arrival but no problems and we enjoyed the view from the window in the dining room.
On the cruise, we had a good mix of world travelers from America, South American, UK, Australians, Canadians etc. and apparently about 270 children. I say apparently because this seems like a lot but they were well managed by shipboard activities and we saw very few.
Montevideo (Christmas Day) Excellent
We really enjoyed our Christmas day in Montevideo. We did a ship excursion that toured a number of places and to Santa Rosa vineyards where we had a fantastic lunch, plenty of wine and entertainment. We purchased a bottle and took it back onto the ship with no problems. My husband got to see parts of the German warship Admiral Graf Spee that were on display at the pier.
Buenos Aries got an OK, it was nice to see. In Buenos Aries, it started with rain which is unfortunate and the afternoon was sunny and clear. Our Princess shore excursion took in the highlights of the city and we stopped at Recoleta Cemetery to see the burial crypt of Eva Peron "Evita".
This evening, we had a romantic sunset 'Balcony Dinner' served as we slowly cruised away from Buenos Aries down RÃo de la Plata. This is not room service but a special experience for a fee. The food was exceptional and the service was attentive. We had a head waiter and assistant waiter at our beck and call for several hours. Whatever we wanted was provided. The 998 people looking over their respective balconies gave us the feeling that we were celebrities! We asked the waiter if the balcony dinner was popular and he said no, we were the first he had done. It was fun and the beautiful sunset cruise down the river was simply magnificent! This is highly recommended.
On our way to the Falkland Islands, the seas are absolutely calm and the sun was out most of the time although we did have a few hours mid afternoon of fog before the temperature dropped. It was in the high 80's in Rio, 70's in Montevideo and Buenos Aries with low humidity and cool 50's in the Falklands.
Falkland Islands - Excellent
We arrived in the Falklands in bright sunshine right behind the Norwegian Sun. The Captain had forecast rain but thankfully, he was a little off the mark although we did have a shower mid afternoon as we headed back to the ship from our shopping run in Stanley. Our morning Princess shore excursion tour took us to see a small colony of Gentoo Penguins at Sparrow Cove and the journey was both by private boat directly from the ship and a 30 minute drive over the bogs in a Land Rover to a location where approximately 200 pairs of penguins and their chicks were located. The tour only took 12 at a time and there were 4 vehicles so we had our own vehicle and guide. The all female guides were excellent and provided wonderful information about the colonies and the country. In the afternoon, we went into Stanley and walked around and did some shopping. The stores were busy because of two ships being in but it was tolerable.
Cape Horn was breathtaking cold with light winds. The captain cruised slowly counterclockwise around the horn and passed closer than he had ever been to that piece of land.
Ushuaia, Argentina was a neat little port island, the most southern in the world. We did a Beagle Channel tour and saw lots of wildlife. In town, we found plenty of nice little shops plus a neat chocolate store called Turista and wow, it was good!
We brought in the New Year in style with new friends with lots of drink and entertainment in the Piazza but we did not stay up much past midnight. Someone booked an early shore excursion - on New Years Day!
Punta Arenas, Chile we did a shore excursion to see Magellanic Penguins. This was most interesting as these Penguins burrow versus having their eggs on their feet. Most of the shops were closed for New Years but that did not stop us from shopping and purchasing our local souvenirs from a craft market. Up to this point, the weather has been fantastic but it was starting to turn with rain and wind on the horizon. We were warned by the captain that a storm heading towards us and he is forecasting winds of 60 knots and 36 foot seas as we return to the Pacific Ocean. He is planning to stay inside the fjords as much as possible but we will be in and out of the heavy seas for the next two days of the three sea days. Apparently we entered the rough Pacific around 3 in the morning but we choose a cabin smack in the middle of the ship. My husband is a mariner and he was hoping for at least one rough day and he knew that the middle of the ship would be the place to be if his wish came true. I did not know it was rough until we opened the curtains around 7 AM to look out. Neither of us had any signs of seasickness at all and the Captain, although not the most sociable person we have met, did a great job keeping the ship and souls on board safe.
The original schedule had us arriving in Valparaiso at 6 AM on Tuesday and our flight is not until 10:00 PM. The Captain is forecasting a late arrival but he would not commit to how late. We decided that all would be fine with our flights as long as we were not more than about 12 hours delayed but at any rate we decided to go with the flow. We are both experienced travelers and not the type to worry about missing connections. We built some flexibility in our schedule so we could stay in Santiago for a day or two if necessary. We did have a Princess shore excursion booked that would eventually drop us at the airport and we were notified that it had been cancelled with the charge removed from our account. As a result, on the morning or our last sea day, around 8 AM we went down to the shore excursion desk where there was a short line (15 people, 10 minute wait) and purchased Airport transfers and there was no problem. We had not booked flights with Princess so we knew we were on our own if changes were required.
A similar 'weather' thing happened last year on this route and the ship was 24 hours late arriving and it was a few days before everyone was able to get out of Santiago.
On the middle sea day, we did the Ultimate Ship Tour where we saw behind the scenes of the production shows, stage lighting and costumes along with the galley, bakery, laundry, printing, bridge, medical, morgue etc. The tour is somewhat pricey but interesting and is offset by the goodies that come with it. One of the most interesting talks was from the purchaser who told us about buying fresh produce in South America versus purchasing in North America. South America does not use pesticides or other chemicals on their crops making them organic. The fruit and vegetables are huge although they may not look as pretty as they do in North America. The taste quality is fantastic with everything being so fresh, delicious and juicy.
The third sea day was calm and clear. We spotted several whales from our balcony and commented for all of the trips we have taken, this one had the most variety of wildlife.
On the morning or our arrival and due to being late, we were allowed to stay in our cabin until noon. We watched the sail in, had a leisure breakfast and moved to the appointed lounge at the appointed hour for disembarkation. The groups were called in order and we were off the ship within an hour.
We were transported via a coach to the immigration hall then on to the airport. Our luggage went directly to the airport and that was convenient. The coaches that took us to the airport were the same ones that would have done the shore excursions. We had a guide who gave us the history of the area and highlighted points of interest as we made out way towards Santiago Airport. We arrived at the airport around 4 PM and had plenty of time to get something to eat and shop before our departure.
One suggestion would be to make the room bill available either online or on the TV so it would be more accessible. No problem, we got a bill every 2-3 days and reconciled it so that at the end of the cruise there were no surprises. Less
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